Egypt - Politics
|Gamal Abdul Nasser||1954||1970|
|Anwar as Sadat||1970||1981|
|Abdel Fattah el-Sisi||2014||2030|
President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, a former general who led the military overthrow of his elected but divisive Islamist predecessor in 2013, waged an unprecedented crackdown on dissent. Thousands have been imprisoned, with some rights advocates putting the number as high as 60,000. Since Sisi overthrew Morsi, Egypt has drawn heavy international criticism for its sweeping crackdown on dissent. The authorities have jailed thousands of Morsi's supporters as well as liberal and secular activists, including a popular blogger, actors, singers and journalists.
Sisi has presided over a dramatic deterioration in all basic rights and further entrenched the military’s role in everyday life. Managing to assert his rule through fear of his state security apparatus rather than popular consent. With regard to the judiciary, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the entire judicial structure exists as a body to rubber stamp his policies with no hint of a commitment to the separation of powers.
Activists and organizations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have documented enforced disappearances, widespread torture and a recent arrest campaign targeting people authorities believe are gay. The authorities have blocked hundreds of independent news and critical websites. Critics say el-Sissi is a dictator who cannot stand any form of opposition or real criticism. He jails journalists for doing their jobs, youth for expressing their opinions, writers for writing fiction that violates 'public morality,' gays for coming out, supporters of LGBTQ for daring to support diversity, and he has blocked more than 400 different websites and media platforms.
El-Sissi denies that Egypt tortures or has any political prisoners, and maintains that human rights are only one among several pressing issues his government is addressing, such as improving the economy and providing stability.
There were numerous reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings while making arrests or holding persons in custody. There were reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings during disputes with civilians. There were a few reports of such killings while the government or its agents dispersed demonstrations. There were reports of suspects killed in unclear circumstances during or after arrest. There were reports of police killing unarmed civilians during personal or business disputes, which local academics and human rights groups claimed were part of a culture of excessive violence within security services.
Several international and local human rights groups, including the quasi-governmental National Council on Human Rights (NCHR), reported a spike in enforced disappearances, alleging authorities increasingly relied on this tactic to intimidate critics. According to a July 2016 Amnesty International [AI] report, authorities had forcibly disappeared at least several hundred individuals since the beginning of 2015. In all of the cases AI presented, authorities arrested those forcibly disappeared in a manner that did not comply with due process laws.
Local rights organizations documented hundreds of incidents of torture throughout the year 2016, including deaths that resulted from torture. According to domestic and international human rights organizations, police and prison guards sometimes resorted to torture to extract information from detainees, including minors. Reported techniques included beatings with fists, whips, rifle butts, and other objects; prolonged suspension by the limbs from a ceiling or door; electric shocks; sexual assault; attacks by dogs; and forced standing for hours. Government officials denied the use of torture was systemic. Authorities stated they did not sanction these abuses and, in some cases, prosecuted individual police officers for violating the law.
There were reports of political prisoners and detainees, although verifiable estimates were not available. The government claimed there were no political prisoners and all persons in detention had been or were in the process of being, charged with a crime. Human rights groups and international observers maintained the government detained or imprisoned as many as several thousand persons solely or chiefly because of their political beliefs or opposition to the government. One local rights organization estimated there were 60,000 political prisoners. A local rights group considered any persons arrested under the 2013 demonstrations law to be political prisoners. In their view these persons were political prisoners or detainees because authorities held them based on laws that restricted the exercise of a human right, because charges were false or inflated motivated by the individual’s political opinion or membership in a particular group, or because some individuals faced unduly harsh and disproportionate treatment due to their political opinions or membership in particular groups.
According to its constitution, Egypt is a republic governed by an elected president and unicameral legislature. Domestic and international observers concluded the presidential election that took place in 2014 was administered professionally and in line with the country’s laws, while also expressing serious concerns that government limitations on association, assembly, and expression constrained broad political participation. Domestic and international observers also concluded that government authorities professionally administered the parliamentary elections that took place October through December 2015 in accordance with the country’s laws, while also expressing concern about restrictions on freedom of peaceful assembly, association, and expression and their negative effect on the political climate surrounding the elections.
In January 2017 the Washington-based, USAID-funded research group Freedom House released its annual “Freedom in the World” report: "Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who seized power in a 2013 coup, has been praised by some democratic politicians—especially those on the right—for toppling an unpopular Islamist incumbent and ruthlessly cracking down on both the former president’s peaceful supporters and an armed insurgency led by the Islamic State militant group. Sisi is held up as a promising partner in the fight against Islamist terrorism.
"A closer look at his performance reveals not just a feckless and thuggish security apparatus that has failed to quell the insurgency, but also a pattern of corruption and economic mismanagement that is bringing Egypt to its knees. The ongoing violence and political repression have crippled the vital tourism industry. Billions of dollars in aid from the Persian Gulf monarchies have been wasted, partly on megaprojects of dubious value that enrich regime cronies. And in 2016 the government began implementing austerity measures in exchange for an emergency bailout from the International Monetary Fund, driving up prices for food staples and angering an already desperate population."
The most significant human rights problems were excessive use of force by security forces, deficiencies in due process, and the suppression of civil liberties. Excessive use of force included unlawful killings and torture. Due process problems included the excessive use of preventative custody and pretrial detention, the use of military courts to try civilians, trials involving hundreds of defendants in which authorities did not present evidence on an individual basis, and arrests conducted without warrants or judicial orders. Civil liberties problems included societal and government restrictions on freedoms of expression and the media, as well as on the freedoms of assembly and association in statute and practice.
Other human rights problems included disappearances; harsh prison conditions; arbitrary arrests; a judiciary that in some cases appeared to arrive at outcomes not supported by publicly available evidence or that appeared to reflect political motivations; reports of political prisoners and detainees; restrictions on academic freedom; impunity for security forces; harassment of some civil society organizations; limits on religious freedom; official corruption; and limits on civil society organizations.
The Muslim Brotherhood was overthrown, its leaders jailed or on the run, and the Egyptian military was again ruling the country. Egypt's army ousted democratically elected president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013 and launched a crackdown on his supporters that left hundreds of people dead. The interim government then imposed a state of emergency and nightly curfew to restore control. At the same time, the military-backed government is moving ahead with a transition plan that envisions elections for a new president and parliament next year. Morsi was being held awaiting trial on charges of inciting murder and violence. Egyptian authorities acted November 13, 2013 to end the three-month state of emergency, a step that may help the army-backed government restore a semblance of normalcy after turmoil ignited by the military overthrow of president Mohamed Morsi.
At some point, a way must be found to reintegrate supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and liberal groups back into the political process. The former are too numerous and influential to isolate or expunge, while the latter was responsible for sparking the 2011 revolution and is the source of innovation and intellectual heft. Both groups are likely to be emboldened by the low turnout for Sissi and to continue protests both inside and outside Egypt that will scare away tourists and potential investors.
Since President Sisi requested parliament to approve a state of emergency (SOE) after the April 2017 terrorist attack on Coptic churches, he has requested and parliament has ratified SOEs with one- or two-day gaps between every two SOE periods to meet the legal requirement that SOEs may only be renewed once.
Human rights issues included unlawful or arbitrary killings by the government or its agents and terrorist groups; forced disappearances; torture; arbitrary detention; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention; political prisoners; arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy; undue restrictions on free expression, the press, and the internet, including censorship, site blocking, and criminal libel; substantial interference with the rights of peaceful assembly and freedom of association, including government control over registration and financing of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs); restrictions on political participation; use of the law to arbitrarily arrest and prosecute lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons; violence targeting LGBTI persons and members of other minority groups, and use of forced or compulsory child labor.
Several international and local human rights groups reported continuing large numbers of enforced disappearances, alleging authorities increasingly relied on this tactic to intimidate critics. According to a 2017 Amnesty International (AI) statement, security agents caused the disappearance of at least 1,700 persons since 2015. The Cairo-based NGO Egyptian Coordination for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF) documented 230 enforced disappearances between August 2017 and August 2018.
The large number of arrests and the use of pretrial detention during the year 2018 exacerbated harsh conditions and overcrowding, contributing to the prevalence of deaths in prisons and detention centers. Conditions in the prisons and detention centers were harsh and potentially life threatening due to overcrowding, physical abuse, inadequate medical care, poor infrastructure, and poor ventilation. According to domestic and international NGO observers, prison cells were overcrowded, and prisoners lacked adequate access to medical care, proper sanitation and ventilation, food, and potable water. Inmates often relied upon external visitors for food and other supplies or were forced to purchase those items from the prison canteen at significantly inflated prices. Authorities sometimes segregated prisoners accused of crimes related to political or security issues separately from common criminals and subjected them to verbal or physical abuse and punitive solitary confinement.
There were reports of political prisoners and detainees, although verifiable estimates of their total number were not available. The government claimed there were no political prisoners and that all persons in detention had been or were in the process of being charged with a crime. Human rights groups and international observers maintained the government detained or imprisoned as many as several thousand persons solely or chiefly because of their political beliefs. One local rights organization estimated there were more than 2,000 political prisoners in Borg al-Arab Prison alone.
Since Al-Sisi effectively rose to power in July 2013 after ousting Egypt’s first elected president, Mohamed Morsy, Egyptian authorities have arrested and charged tens of thousands of political opponents. Between Morsy’s overthrow and May 2014, the independent Egyptian civil society initiative Wikithawra documented the arrest or prosecution of 41,000 people. In addition, 26,000 more may have been arrested in 2015 and 2016, lawyers and human rights researchers have said.
Groups of protesters gathered in several Egyptian cities beginning after prayers late on Friday 20 September 2019 in response to an online call for a demonstration against government corruption. Egyptian security forces clashed with hundreds of anti-government protesters in the port city of Suez on Saturday, firing tear gas and live rounds, said several residents who participated in the demonstrations. A heavy security presence was also maintained in Cairo's Tahrir Square, the epicentre of Egypt's 2011 revolution, after protests in several cities called for the removal of general-turned-president Abdel Fattah al Sisi.
Such demonstrations are rare after Egypt effectively banned protests under a law passed following the 2013 military ouster of ex-president Mohamed Morsi. On social media, thousands shared footage of Friday's demonstrations, which sprang up in several cities, including sizeable crowds blocking traffic in Alexandria, Al-Mahalla, Damietta, Mansoura and Suez. This is the first time people take to the streets in many years.
But discontent over rising prices has been swelling in Egypt, where Sisi's government imposed strict austerity measures since 2016 as part of a $12-billion loan package from the International Monetary Fund. Nearly one in three Egyptians live below the poverty line on less than $1.40 a day, according to official figures released in July.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|